For NFL scouts, the Senior Bowl is the biggest bowl of the season -- even bigger than the National Championship Game. This is when many of the top draft-eligible players compete head-to-head under NFL supervision in an effort to improve their draft stock.
The 2012 Senior Bowl will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Ala. All four AFC East teams have their staffs in Mobile this week to scout practices and the game.
Here are four players to watch who could be of interest to the AFC East:
1. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, DE/LB
Stats: 52 tackles, 9.5 sacks
Skinny: Upshaw is one of the nation's top pass-rushers and has 16 ½ sacks over the past two seasons. He's aggressive and looks to be a good fit in a 3-4 or 4-3, which makes him attractive to every AFC East team. Upshaw is one of several stud defenders from Alabama's national championship team. Keep an eye on Upshaw for the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, who both hold top-10 picks.
2. Quinton Coples, UNC, DE
Stats: 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks
Skinny: Coples might be gone in the top five before any AFC East team has a chance to get him. He finished with 24 career sacks, and there has been some lofty comparisons to former Tar Heel Julius Peppers. But teams like the Bills and Dolphins will still keep an eye on Coples in case he falls.
3. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama, CB
Stats: 53 tackles, two interceptions
Skinny: This is a player to watch for the New England Patriots. Jenkins is a small-school prospect who should be available late in the first round. The Patriots have two first-round picks, at No. 27 and No. 31 or No. 32. There is a good chance one of those first rounders will go to help their 31st-ranked pass defense. Also, keep in mind Jenkins transferred to North Alabama from the University of Florida. The Gators have been a pipeline for New England in recent seasons with draft picks like Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes.
4. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, QB
Stats: 4,727 yards, 37 touchdowns
Skinny: With all the focus on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, Weeden could be a sleeper of this year's quarterback draft class. He went 23-3 as a starter at Oklahoma State, and could be a nice second-round pick for a team like the Jets or Bills seeking quarterback insurance. Weeden, 28, also is mature, and seems mentally ready to handle the jump to the pros.